Scheduling Snafus, Confounding Certificates, and Mobilized Marketing

It has been, dear reader, a little bit difficult getting back into the swing of things after my Greek trip. It didn’t help that the remnants of my cold lingered a bit longer than I wanted. But it seems that there is something nasty going around in Amsterdam so I guess I’m just going to have to grin and bear it. The most difficult part of the week was The English Center administrative work. I’ll start with my own scheduling issues. I assume that all of you remember Marco, he of a stomach illness that had to cancel his lessons in 2021. We had only had 1 1/2 hours of a 20-hour package. We picked them up in late October 2022. We had one lesson where we set up all the lessons for the remainder of the package. The next lesson he actually missed because he was sick and I couldn’t give him that lesson because it was within the 24-hour window. So that I got paid for. Subsequent to that we decided that we would start our lessons back up on the 13th of January once I was back from the US. All of it was sorted. Prior to my return from the States, I heard from Marco and he said he had been studying by himself and that the thought of taking lessons with anyone was a little bit stressful. He wanted to give his package to his partner. There was no reason why I couldn’t take the client, so I asked the English Center they said that was fine. Until this week. On Friday this week, I sent a zoom link to Loekie, (otherwise known as Marco’s partner) in order to prepare for the 10th of February. In response I got an email saying that she did not want to take the lessons and that she wanted to transfer them to her sister who is a singer and wants to reduce her accent when she sings. The package was not an accent reduction package which is about 20% more expensive than a regular online package. Once again I contacted the English Center and asked if we could do this, indicating I didn’t mind teaching the person but didn’t know how they would feel about it. They have grudgingly, and rightly so in my opinion, agreed that the lessons can be transferred to Loekie’s sister, but no one else. But I agree with them in this instance that is not right. They are losing money and a significant amount of money on this package. I am enough of a business person to understand what that means for the company. And as much as I don’t like some of the English Center’s policies nor do I like to see companies taken advantage of whether knowingly or unknowingly.

On Wednesday the English Center received word that a woman who I had contacted three times and had no response from was ready to start a private 30-hour intensive that started yesterday. We had to scramble to book rooms for her and find teachers. It has proven quite difficult lately to find teachers for students and an intensive of this magnitude with such short notice has proven no exception. Guess who had the most hours to teach? Given that I am able to teach a little bit every day except for Thursday, I was given half of the total hours. Which while good for my pocketbook, may not be so great for my mental health. But the best way out is always through. The challenge will be to coordinate with three other teachers. I spent most of the weekend including the time that I was supposed to be writing with my writer’s group planning all of my lessons. I am grateful to have such understanding private clients because I’ve had to shift my Japanese client to the weekend. I also had to shift a couple of other clients as well. But I hope that this is not a pattern. After all, I do not want to constantly change my private clients in service to The English Center. Because I’m much more loyal to my private clients than I am to any institution. To be fair, I did try to keep my Japanese student’s lesson as planned at 2:30 pm because I’m working in the morning with the intensive client. The intensive ends at 12:30 and that would have been enough time to get to Amstelveen for my Japanese client. If I didn’t have to walk the intensive student and the next teacher to the next location where we are teaching. That’s right we had to split up the rooms between two different locations because we simply couldn’t find them in the same building. It was a jigsaw puzzle of epic proportions. But we finally managed to figure it out. The student works for Kearney and wants some grammar reinforcement and better language for writing reports and describing trends, so it seems that it will be very vocabulary focused. It’s a little bit difficult because while she gave us a needs analysis, there are four teachers working together to get her 30 hours. I find that that is a little bit difficult to coordinate even with a WhatsApp group that all the teachers are participating in. It’s going to be a bit of a tough week.

Another difficulty for the week was that I had to make certificates for classes non-profit group classes that are ending this week and the next. I started to make them and of course, The English Center decided to change the formatting. So the owner of the English Center and I spent much of Friday going back and forth on the phone trying to make sure that the stupid certificates were fine. That extended into Saturday when I made Word documents of the certificates for the class ending on the 6th of February. But what I noticed is that Google Docs took my word document and actively changed the color of my font without me doing anything. It was as the title says, quite confounding. I find that I am not so good with formatting to be able to see when something is a millimeter off at the best of times, let alone when we’re under pressure to complete certificates by Monday. But in the end, it all worked out. I am pretty sure that the owner of The English Center had a glass of wine with dinner. I was tempted to when Shinwei came over for a lesson and dinner but did not.

Speaking of Shinwei, dear reader, I have decided we’re going to once again change our focus for his lessons for a time. He mostly feels ok with social interactions and speaking English. He doesn’t struggle so much with grammar though he sometimes forgets constructions. He has also started taking Dutch and that is informing what he does in English. That’s been very interesting to watch. He says that he has to say the Dutch sentence he has to translate into English and then translate it into Chinese. So it’ll be interesting to see what happens with his social English once he starts learning more and more Dutch. But we have decided that he needs more help with and where he struggles is in making presentations so I have decided to assign him random presentations each week that he will have to give. I will have to ask questions and get him to speak off-script. We will see how that works. Working with my Japanese student has proven to be a pleasure and we have decided to meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays because she has started working part-time at the restaurant under her house. She is also quite keen to do some on-the-go lessons when we go into the city and she uses her English when we are together. I foresee many Museum visits in the immediate future.

While I was in the States I was talking to my sister about the troubles that I have been having in terms of teaching and working here in the Netherlands. She suggested that I completely strike out on my own. She also offered to facilitate a meeting with a digital marketing company that does the marketing for her. I had that meeting early last week and it was very encouraging. I feel a little bit better about the direction I’ve decided to go with my teaching and hope that eventually I can get away from all of the schools that I work for and really cut out the middleman. I am a writer and I have no problem with negative feedback or constructive criticism but what I have a problem with is when it’s filtered through a school and that impacts your job prospects. I love when my students tell me that there are things that I’m not covering that they want me to. I make sure that my students are active participants in their learning plans. I also don’t have a problem with feedback from schools, but I have a problem when that feedback is passive-aggressive and isn’t actually given to the person but instead is on some form that is only seen by the school. Especially if you find out what they think in a roundabout way. I’m excited by the developments of the last week in terms of the marketability of incredible and have a clear target in mind. I think that actually helps.

That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installments. But stay tuned. As always, there is more to come.

Loaded Lessons and Parthenon Paralysis

It was quite a busy week here at Inkreadable, dear reader. Following up on my cold of the previous week where I only did as much work as was emergent, I really had to buckle down and get back into the swing of things. That meant that I had to do 13 and a half hours of administrative work for The English Center. I also had to give lessons to three of my clients for The English Center as well as my kids from China and the new client from Japan for my private lessons. In terms of The English Center, I reconnected with Slava with whom I now have four more hours left in his package. I am not sure whether he will continue as his boss actually has to approve the continuation because they pay for it. On the one hand, it might be nice to have my Monday evenings back, but it’s always a toss-up between working and free time. It’s the nature of being self-employed. If I’m honest, I would prefer to have online clients in the evening and in-person clients during the day. Slava is improving but it’s slow going because he has a hard time practicing English. He finds that when he’s speaking to his work colleagues the language is specific and used repeatedly. So he’s able to understand it. Where he struggles is if people go off script. I did try to tell him that that is an issue with everyone trying to learn a language. I certainly had it with my students during VIPKid. I had my last lesson with Roy for his 12-hour pronunciation package, but I think I may see him again. He might want to do a maintenance program but he said he would contact me with some dates. In his final lesson, we went over the different pronunciation and general English mistakes that Dutch speakers make. Including confusing the present progressive and simple present. Those two tenses are not differentiated in Dutch so “I eat an apple” and “I am eating an apple” are the same for Dutch speakers. So they tend to use present simple when they mean present progressive. I had a lesson planned for Isabelle this week but she changed it up on me at the last minute. She was giving a presentation in Dutch but the slides had to be in English because they are being distributed company-wide, and English is one of two official company languages. We spent about 45 minutes of the lesson talking about her slides, which left about 15 minutes to go over the plan for the following week. We are doing a lesson on the evolution of the hoodie. One of Isabel’s loves is fashion so I try to incorporate both fashion and HR into her lessons to keep them interesting.

Getting back into the swing of things with the kids in China was easy as we have started a new book and their conversations pretty well flow. At least Jerry’s conversation does. George’s speech impediment makes it a little bit difficult to understand him, but it’s gotten to the point where I’m able to understand about 75% of what he says. The other 25% I kind of fake it till I make it. But it’s interesting because they have very different perspectives on learning. Jerry is much more engaged and is able to answer my questions. George tends to fall back on the good old “I don’t know” when he doesn’t feel like participating or doing anything. As he gets older, I find that that becomes more and more prevalent. It may be that we have reached the end of the usefulness with George and that I will lose him as a client. Of course, it may be that I will lose both him and Jerry as clients because they are shortly to start high school and probably won’t have time for extra classes. China’s children tend to take many extra classes outside of their school that have an affiliation with what they’re currently learning and so English tends to take a back seat. We will have to see what happens but maybe they will just take a break and then come back once they hit university. My new Japanese student and I had our first two lessons together this week and they went quite well. We did cooking-based lessons and learned about some of the language involved with restaurants and food preparation. Our next lessons are tomorrow and Friday. We did a bit of an intake and while I did not do verbs like I normally do, I am going to try and shore up her use of the perfect tenses as they tend to be difficult.

You may have noticed, dear reader that I have not mentioned Odhran and our Greek classes in some time. That is because we went on hiatus during the winter holidays. But this past weekend starting from Friday at 9:00 Greek time until yesterday at midnight I was in Greece with him. On Saturday, we did a cat tour of Athens where we got to see several cat colonies and learn about the efforts to rescue and stop the problem of stray cats in Athens through catch-and-release programs. It was quite an interesting tour and I was very pleased with Odhran’s use of Greek even if it was just conversational. I had him order for us the whole weekend and I heard from his mom that even when I was not with them, (for example the time they went for ice cream and I opted to stay home), he used Greek to order. After the cat tour, we went to the Acropolis and I managed to walk most of the way up but I did not feel like climbing the stairs up to the Acropolis as they were very slippery and my ears are still blocked from my cold 2 weeks ago. As a result, my balance is affected and in fact, I wasn’t watching where I was going and I managed to fall once. I’m not sure why as I have gotten older I am less able to tell the depth of stairs and walking downstairs is much more difficult than walking up. I don’t mean stairs like in an apartment building. Those are fine. I am talking about finally hewn marble steps that have been polished and are so slippery with thousands of feet that traipse across them every year that is physically impossible to actually step on them. I do have a couple of nice pictures of views from the Acropolis but the nicest one appears below:

I was watching several groups of children bounding from stone to stone at the Acropolis and don’t ever remember feeling that confident or self-assured. Maybe it’s as we get older we learn to fear. But I was quite content to just sit at the bottom and wait for Odhran and his mom to come back from the top of the Acropolis and report what they had seen. Having accomplished what we wanted to accomplish, we spent Sunday morning on Syntagma Square watching the changing o the guard then went to Aegina. Here are some pictures from the ferry and on the island:

On Monday we went to the headquarters of his other Greek school and I got to meet the head of the school. We split up after that as they went to the airport but I was not flying until the evening and so I hooked up with a friend of my mom’s and spent the day with them. The flight home was uneventful thankfully. My key takeaways from this trip: Odhran is making progress and his mom is happy with me and the greek school. I also like destination teaching and hope to do more of it.

That’s All She Wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But, stay tuned. As always, there’s more to come.

Medical Minimalism, Restful Reading, and Private (student) Pickup

Unfortunately, there isn’t much to report this week, dear reader. From Tuesday last week, my cold got progressively worse with all the symptoms that you would expect including fever, not being able to breathe very well, and coughing. But the interesting thing about this cold and something I have never experienced before, was a blockage of my right ear that isn’t going away. It is my custom to wait a week before calling the doctor. So yesterday I gave the doctor a call but was not able to actually talk to one. Instead, I got the assistant. It seems that there is nothing they can do for a blockage of the ears except wait for it to pass. I did manage to clear my schedule of everything that caused me to have to talk.

I spent the week reading several books including a book club selection and a couple of other physical books for a book swap. While it was quite a nice restful week, yesterday I actually behaved as if I wasn’t sick and actually got some work done. I’m so behind in my administrative tasks that it feels like I am not going to get out from under all of this at least not for a while.

While I didn’t do much teaching last week, I did pick up a new student this week who is my most consistent student yet. She has purchased 68 hours of my time from now until the end of June. She is a Japanese student who found me online and we had been talking a little bit before I left for the US. We started yesterday and while she is at quite a low level, I think she has the potential for fast improvement. She’s also open to learning in different places so maybe I will do some lessons on the go with her like I do with ShinWei. I also contacted a parent who I had started a conversation with before I left. She has two kids and wants lessons for one possibly both of them full stop as it’s raining I have not heard anything back from her as yet.

I spent part of the weekend preparing for my forthcoming trip to Greece. It’s actually the reason that I called the doctor because I was afraid that with my ear blocked I would not be able to fly. Basically, they told me that I fly at my own risk and they can’t tell me not to. So dear reader, my next post will be coming to you post a glorious Greek weekend where I get to see lots of cats, the Parthenon, and possibly take a day trip to an island.

That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned. As always, there is more to come.

Slow Schedule and Holiday Highlights

It’s been another quiet week at Inkreadable, dear reader. The only teaching that I did this week was with Isabelle on Tuesday. And even for that one, there was no prep because I had already prepped a lesson for her, and as ever we discussed an article. We also talked about our plans for Christmas and I checked in with her as to how she’d like the lessons for this package to proceed. We’ve been doing mostly conversations with syntax corrections if needed and trying to build her vocabulary. I think my next lesson will be about using idioms with her as we haven’t actually done that. In terms of English Center work everything else is in person and has to be completed when I get back to the Netherlands.

It’s not to say that I didn’t do any work for The English Center. In fact, I did quite a bit of scheduling work and trying to find rooms for various students who are doing intensives and the like. Scheduling work seems to be ramping up quite a lot as they have an influx of new students. It’s unfortunate however that they’re only using about 1/4 of their teaching staff to teach these students. I have figured out that they want to keep new teachers happy. I know this because that was how it was for me in 2019. Of course, the pandemic affected everything, but things are getting back to normal, at least in the Netherlands and there should be enough work for everyone. Unfortunately, there isn’t. And that means that the teachers who have been with schools for a long time are the ones that are being shafted and new teachers are being led to believe that they will have the volume of work that they have now for always. And I think that is across the board.

My Private Client world is also pretty slow with only Shinwei doing online lessons while I’m here. My Chinese kids are on hiatus as is Odhran. In fact, I won’t be seeing him until I get back to the Netherlands, and then we will have to do twice the work to account for the break. It gives us two weeks to get him ready for our trip to Greece on the 20th of January. In other news, the parent who contacted me for lessons for her son finally got in touch with me. We are going to set up a meeting when I am back in the Netherlands to see if I can start teaching her son. In true Dutch fashion, however, she has already asked me for a discount. I don’t think I can go much Beyond 20% off for both children. That means working with each child for 40 euros an hour. I think that is more than reasonable. Of course, it may come to nothing so it’s not something that I’m banking on.

There are some other things in my teaching pipeline but what I’m realizing is that given that The English Center feels mainly negative things about me and is trying to keep me happy with an administrative position, my conclusion is that I need to leave English language teaching completely. This isn’t a very easy realization as English language teaching was my career change. But I’m realizing more and more that if everything that is thought about me by the people that I work for is negative then there’s no point in doing the job. I am not going to take any action until I have another job and in order to do that I am going to start by getting some help from HR professionals who might be able to point me in the right direction in terms of resume and skill set help. For the moment I’m going to bide my time and see where things take me, but I’ve been feeling more and more that aside from the clients who have come to me of their own volition, English language teaching is starting to dry up. But it’s not just that, dear reader. I recently discovered that a friend of mine thought that I had taken someone’s job at English Center and that was not the case. While it was a misunderstanding I now feel that I cannot trust the friend who felt these things about me and as she is also an English language teacher, it’s time to go.

I’m not actually looking forward to looking for other work in an economic downturn, and certainly, I’m not going to let anyone know that I’m looking until I have something else that is not English language teaching. I’m not sure how this will affect the blog but of course, you guys will be the first to know once things change. I figure it’s better to look for a job from a position of having a job rather than leaving and trying to find a job without a source of income. The best of all worlds would be if I could make more passive income and not have to work as hard as I currently do with lesson planning.

Christmas Eve and Christmas day were both pretty quiet and spent with family. Christmas Eve was with Jasper’s family and that was a do-what-you-like kind of Christmas. My own family is a little bit more outwardly social and you always have to be on with them as opposed to being able to read a book like you can with Jasper’s family. I like both but I have to say that I do prefer that people don’t look at me funny in Jasper’s family when I want to read a book.

A belated Merry Christmas to you all dear readers. That’s All She Wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned. As always, there is more to come.

Schedule Shifts and Writing Woes

I have been back from Greece for nearly a week and I can’t say that I have settled into a routine. Because we’re traveling in less than a week it feels like the last couple of weeks have been rather surreal. It hasn’t helped that I’m not able to control what happens on my schedule currently. It had been set before I left for Greece but as with most business people, a few of my clients have had to cancel our lessons. One of them was Yana. We were supposed to meet on Thursday but she was called into a business meeting and so she could not meet. That meant that I had to find her a substitute for her final lesson in the package as she did not want to do a double lesson on the weekend. Luckily I was able to do that because Emily, the teacher who helped me out on November 26 was available on December 17th so I went ahead and booked a room. So it worked out, but not without consequences for me. Because of course, it is a financial loss. But since I tend to be really optimistic about teaching, something else will come up, and the bright side was that I got to go to my writer’s group on Thursday. I didn’t have any of my clients for English Center with the exception of my pronunciation client who I saw while in Greece because it was an online lesson. Our final lesson will be in person later today. I am going to miss our lessons because he’s quite a nice student. He really does listen to the advice that I give. Our final lesson is going to be spent going over pronunciation mistakes that specifically Dutch people make because up until now we’ve been trying to isolate and get him to say the th sound both voiced and unvoiced. Accordingly, I prepared the lesson over the weekend for him with all of the mistakes that Dutch people tend to make including some incorrect word used mistakes which he doesn’t tend to do but I have to fill up an hour and a half with him anyway. Isabelle and I are going to meet on Thursday this week as I have a book club tonight. And I haven’t had Slava in what seems like a million years but has really only been about 3-weeks. We met last night and worked on expressing the time and expressions with time as well as higher-order numbers. I am sharing him with another teacher, and sometimes that can be difficult, but it’s nice when you’re given concrete things to work on. It makes lesson planning much easier.

In my private client world, it’s been almost dead. While I was in Greece I didn’t have anyone on my schedule. But once I got back I made sure to schedule Shinwei on Friday and then with my kids from China on Sunday as per usual. This week I am meeting with Odhran twice to make up for the loss from last week. These are fairly easy classes to prep for. With Shinwei we’re working on wine terms. With Odhan we’re working on functional phrases in Greek that he can use when we go to Greece in January.

What wasn’t great this week was my Writer’s group as I actually had to prep a lesson so I wasn’t doing any writing of my own. And I don’t like when that happens. It gets very frustrating because Thursdays are kind of sacred and when I have to give them up for students it really messes with my week. It is especially difficult now as I will be away starting next week in the US and so won’t be attending any meetings at all. So I would have liked to connect with my characters before being in the US and not really being able to write. Maybe I’ll get a chance to write while I am in the US. But I think that is a bit too much optimism.

That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned. As always, there is more to come.

Course Coordinator Conundrums and Writing Wrinkles

With most of the English Center management team away for the better part of the next couple of weeks, it falls to a couple of us to pick up the slack. Or I should say not slack, precisely because we are in communication via email, but answering client emails in a timely manner. I have been able to answer most emails quickly as well as do follow-ups, but where I’m finding it difficult is with tasks that aren’t necessarily clear. I’ll give you an example. I was asked to spearhead a project for a super cool foundation called Dignita, which I think I mentioned a post or two ago. They are a chain of three restaurants in the city that are fully nonprofit. Their profit goes back into a foundation where they repatriate people back into mainstream society after having been trafficked. I think it’s a super-worthy enterprise and I’m really excited to be a part of it. My function is more as a liaison between the English Center and the foundation. On the 14th of November, we had the intake and there were 35 people in attendance. It was decided that the courses would be 15 and 16 people respectively on a Monday and Tuesday evening, and we were trying to divide the people into two groups, one for lower-level learners and one for upper-level donors. Or more accurately beginner and slightly less beginner. Most of the people in the classes are Ukrainian, but there are a few other nationalities mixed in. One of the tasks that I am in charge of for this group is making sure that they get the books that they need. I have been communicating back and forth with English Center and them and thought that I needed to go ahead and order the books. This was further confirmed when the teacher of the course told me that the manager of the foundation would get in touch with me to get the books delivered. I contacted her first and got the address for the book delivery. She let me know where to send the books and I set up the order. Over the weekend, she let me know that she would check whether the books were shipped to the location and that she did yesterday. They have gotten the books. But here’s the problem. On Sunday, I woke up to an email from Kerry, asking Paul (the course instructor) and I to confirm that Dignita would actually pay for the book budget. I then had to send another email to Dignita, kind of a mea culpa email taking responsibility for the mistake and asking if Dignta was going to pay for all the books or whether some students would foot the cost themselves. I also contacted Waterstones where I ordered the books and made sure that I would be able to return the books if I needed to. I have done all that I can, but I feel very bad that I did not get the correct information from the back-and-forth on the emails. Last night I received word that the company would pay and the student would be offered the choice to pay for some of the cost. SO all’s well that ends well but it was a bit fraught for me.

The above was not the only occurrence of me feeling stupid. The second one was a little bit more interesting. We have an email where all of the communications from customers come in and we can all see it. I woke up to an email from a former student of mine asking about private intensive lessons. So I approached the email in the following way. I said that it was really nice to hear from her again and I asked her for clarification asking if she was looking for more private lessons, like the ones we had in the summer, or whether she was looking for an intensive Group course. What is interesting is that she asked the question as if she had never taken classes with us before, but she has and so she should know how we work. The last time I saw her was in September. The courses haven’t changed since then neither have the prices. It was a bit of a strange interaction, but we will have to see what happens.

It isn’t often that my writing group and my book club collide, but this week they did, in a very interesting way. The book that we are reading for the December meeting is Atomic Habits by a guy called Jeff Clear and it tells you about how to succeed. It outlines how to make positive habits and how to break negative habits. What’s nice is that it’s short and clearly written. I took away from it a couple of things that were useful and I was anxious to try them out in the writing group. Basically, the author of the book says that habits are formed by small sustainable changes that you can do your whole life. One of the steps that he gives is to make a list of all the habits that you do in a day and mark them whether good or bad. He says that you should make good habits easy to do and accessible. Bad habits should become inaccessible. I wanted to try and put into practice a word goal for each writer’s meeting. I have not to date been able to do that. Somehow I feel that people around me are doing much better than I am and it stops me from actually doing any writing at all. Thereby it feels like the two hours and 45 minutes of the Writers Group for me is a waste of time. As you might imagine that is not a very good feeling and I do not enjoy it. I feel that even a small goal has been beyond me lately. And it isn’t going to get any easier but more on that in my next post.

That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned. As always, there is more to come.

Load Lightening and Writing Return

While it hasn’t been a quiet week, I have rather figured out how to manage my time. It helps that certain classes have ended over at the English Center. Sanne will not be doing any more classes. Neither will Carlien. This means that four hours of time are freed up because I won’t be going to Amstelveen until next year-ish.  For our last lesson, Sanne and I talked about holidays and we played three games in the course of the hour. I have a feeling that this was her favorite class. but really, dear reader, that’s not exactly my fault because she did ask for more grammar. And she really wouldn’t bring me her English homework either. With Carlien, because she pays for her lessons herself, I think that the budgeting is not there for her to take more lessons. Which is a shame because I quite like her and we got on very well. Currently, on my English Center roster, there remain three students. There is Isabelle with whom I am doing article-based teaching and conversation. There is Roy who is a pronunciation student. He and I are doing accent reduction but what’s interesting about him is that he was recently diagnosed with asthma and feels that he is losing words both in English and in Dutch and he also loses his breath as he speaks. That’s not actually in my preview, so I very gently directed him to maybe go to a speech pathologist to help him out. That was the consensus with my colleague who does pronunciation and is also the English Center’s English central coach, which is a software that allows you to work on your pronunciation in the context of video-based lessons where you listen and repeat. Finally, there is Slava, with whom I have to start a new 10-hour package. This 10-hour package will extend into the first half of January as I am going to the states and there will not be time to finish his lessons before I leave. I was very gratified that he tested as an A2 level which is what his company wanted from him. So now it’s a matter of getting him more confident in his speaking. I am sharing him now with another colleague because he wants to do four hours a week, and I am not in a position to do that at the times that he wants. He is not happy about that, but I am not about to compromise on my Thursday evenings anymore than I already have.

Speaking of Thursday night. I was finally able to go back to the Writers Group this week and get some decent writing done. I do find that my concentration is not where it needs to be, and I frequently find myself spacing out. I’m not sure if anybody else is experiencing this because they’re all typing away seemingly without trouble. But this week I am working on a scene where my main character is actually learning how to do magic.  It is in the 34th chapter of my book, and that’s about 170 pages in. I found myself continually, wondering whether I wasn’t leaving the magic teaching until too late in the book. It’s a question for a beta reader, I suppose, but I’m also finding that I’m having a hard time figuring out where to send my characters next and how to structure the climax of the book and the eventual resolution.

On Saturday I went on a scavenger hunt in the city of Haarlem that was Alice in Wonderland-themed. While this doesn’t really have to do with teaching or writing, I got to say that Lewis Carroll was a trippy individual. The questions were mostly chess themed which was a little bit difficult, but we managed to get most of them. There were a couple of stupid ones, like the one that said “I am taller than all and I rhyme with hoof”. So we thought roof, but the word was actually chimney. I’m sorry but that doesn’t rhyme with hoof so whoever wrote that riddle was an idiot. The other notable event from this particular scavenger hunt was the fact that my partner in scavenger hunts Lola and I met by chance at Centraal Station and got on the train. We nearly missed our stop for Haarlem however and were forced to literally jump off the train. This led to a very delayed PTSD reaction from me in the evening as I started hyperventilating at the thought that I could’ve really gotten hurt by jumping like that. Still, it was a fairly lovely afternoon and while I don’t think we will do the next one as it is Smurf themed, we might do another one in the future.

That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned. As always, there is more to come.

Cold Consequences

Sometimes, dear reader, things happen unexpectedly. They can be so pervasive
that they affect every facet of life. At least, in the short term. Such was the
case with me this week. The week started out well enough with me doing all of
my routine things for The English Center like my two-star leads that I contact
on a Monday and then contact again by telephone on a Friday. I am also fully in
the swing of things with taking over projects for them, at least in the short
term. They include a project to re-patriot people into mainstream society after
being trafficked or having been sex workers. Which I think is a really worthy
endeavor. I was able to give Odhran a private lesson on Tuesday as well as an
in-person pronunciation lesson. And I even gave Isabelle her weekly lesson that
evening. On Wednesday, I headed over to The English Center to do admin work
with them and to teach Sanne, for our penultimate lesson. That evening I was
struck down by an insidious cold that I’ve either had for three weeks and it’s
just reared its ugly head again or this was yet another, separate cold. Either
way, it was ridiculous because the rest of the week was quite difficult.
Thursday and Friday are typically fairly light days because I don’t really
teach. Instead, I have other things going on. This week it would’ve been a
mortgage broker consultation for Jasper and I to talk to them about purchasing
a house. Luckily or unlikely, I’m not sure which guy flaked out and got the
time wrong. He thought we were meeting at 11 and we thought we were meeting at
10:30. We were ready to go at 10:30, but then Jasper had to go to work so they
wouldn’t have been time to wait the half hour until 11 am.

What I noticed, dear reader is that by Thursday I wasn’t really firing on
all cylinders and I was making stupid mistakes. Like the fact that I sent an
email to someone with the wrong name and no subject. I don’t typically make
those mistakes and realized that because I wasn’t feeling at all well, and I
wasn’t as cognisant as I could be, I wasn’t as efficient as I could be either.
As a result, I actually pulled everything off of my schedule that wasn’t online
and kind of put myself to bed. except that I really didn’t. I kept doing online
work as much as I could until one of my colleagues told me that I needed to
slow down and take a break. It’s just as well that my schedule is about to get
much lighter with the completion of both Carlien’s and Senna’s lessons. Neither
of them is going to renew. Which is fine. what is not so fine is that my
student Marco is once again on hiatus for the month of November because he is
also ill. His immune system is very badly rundown after a virus that activated
the symptoms of his chronic illness. I sent him a revised schedule, telling him
that he didn’t need to lose all of the lessons, but rather that we would
suspend them and I would add them to the end of a package that would take us
into March 2023. He hasn’t responded as of this writing, but I am assuming that
that is what he wants to do. I also had to give him a revised DC schedule
because by the time we are ready to begin, I will have to give him a few
lessons in the US and because I already have some commitments I had to figure
out when I was available.

But, dear reader, there was another reason that I had to really be careful
with my health over the weekend. I hosted a friendsgiving on Saturday and did
not want to get anyone sick, but also did not want to get even sicker. it was a
very small intimate Friendsgiving we were only about nine people and so were
able to sit at my table, which was great. The previous Thanksgiving had been in
a Dutch circle style where we all sat on a big circle and atet on our laps. I
have to say that I really like having a sit-down situation but my
850-square-foot apartment doesn’t have a lot of space to be able to do that. So
I had to turn my living room into a dining room. Still, it was a rousing
success, and we did not have any leftovers, which is always a good thing.

While I did not get any writing done this week, I did poke my head in virtually
to the meeting just to say hi and make sure that new people were being noticed.
I also poked my head in very briefly on the discord meeting on Sunday. The
upside to not having Marco on Fridays is that I can actually go out for drinks
on Thursdays now.

That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned. As
always, there’s more to come

 

S

Random Realisations and A GGI Get-Together

With the loss of two clients in my private client world, my hours for that income stream are a bit light. I am now averaging about 3 1/2 hours a week with private clients. But one of my clients has Covid for the second time, so I am not sure when I’ll get to give them their last hour.  I had a realization this week, dear reader. Optics are important, and the optics of EFL when you are on your own are completely different than when you teach for a school. I came to this realization talking to a friend on Thursday because she has had some of the same. reactions from people that I have. If you’re on your own and you quote a price people think it’s too expensive. But they don’t realize what goes into preparing a lesson. I’ve had so many people come up to me and say “But what does an English teacher really do? You’re not a real teacher. For whatever reason, if you don’t work for a school that is paid for by the government, then people consider the teaching to be not as valuable as if you were teaching children in a school. The problem with that theory is that most teachers have to bring in their own supplies, they don’t get paid enough to put up with student disrespect and that translates to parent disrespect. At least, in the west. In Asia, I think it’s a little bit easier to be a teacher and the pay is much better. I have a friend who taught in Korea for some years and she was able to make much more money than she does here in the Netherlands. In Asia, people make recommendations and you get lots of clients, but here in the Netherlands, people don’t recommend it to other people in their circle. The other problem is that with online teaching being so low pay when you quote a €50 an hour price people think that’s too expensive. I had that happen with a recommendation from Café Vanaut, which is where I go to do my admin work for The English Center. The owner of the Cafe is a New Yorker and is amazing. She allows me to put my postcards in her window and she actually recommends me because she has seen my work. She recommended me to a customer of hers and I got a text asking what my prices were for basic conversation lessons. I quoted my rate of €50 an hour and didn’t hear a word from the person so can’t say that I am surprised.  However, I have stopped trying to reduce my prices just to get clients. For each hour that I teach. I do at least that much if not more in prep time. So why shouldn’t I charge a living wage? After all, nobody bats an eye when a software engineer charges €150 an hour for his time and consultancy. Teachers are just as skilled as software engineers and frankly have to put up with a lot more. If you want a 10 euro per hour lesson, go online.  It was an eye-opening realization that I am just as capable as anyone else, but because I have the word teacher in my title, I am looked down on by many people. 

 

On Friday night, I went out with colleagues from The English Center and mentioned all of these concerns. They had a different take. People expect high prices from schools. They don’t expect high prices from individuals and so it’s a little harder as a tutor to get the rate that you want. They would be very surprised to hear that test prep in America is charged upwards of $200 an hour. In the Netherlands, those prices would be impossible. The more I learn about how things work at The English Center, the more curious I am as to how they were able to go out and find so many in-company clients and foster so many good relationships with different entities within the Netherlands. I think my colleagues are quite lucky when they told me that they don’t have those experiences that I had on Friday. I have to say that I was quite happy for them but also a little bit jealous. Maybe if I’m here another five years I will also have the same experiences but for right now my private client world is loyal, but a little bit light on new clients. My English Center schedule is going to lighten a little bit more as Slava wants to switch his online classes to Thursday and I do not want to work on a Thursday so it was decided that we will give him to another teacher. While it is a loss of €300 for me, I think this is the best way forward because I do not want to give up my Writer’s Group, as it is kind of sacred to me. Carlien and I are scheduled to finish our five-hour package this coming Friday and I’m not sure that she is going to renew. I also have a couple of lessons with Sanne and I have to get in touch with her parents to see if they want to continue which I have no problem doing. After all, I’m in Amstelveen on Wednesday. Roy proceeds well, but accent reduction is tough. It’s a little bit challenging with Dutch people because they don’t have a very strong accent, to begin with, and their biggest issue is the TH and that’s really hard to correct I’m finding.

In terms of the Writers Group, I was away last week because of an evening of brainstorming with the book club instead. At the brainstorming session, we solidified the structure of the group and I am going to be in charge of the calendar and be an emergency host when needed.  So I didn’t get any writing done this week. And I won’t get any writing done until Thursday because on Sunday when I would’ve been writing, I went to a book club event. We had a Halloween edition discussion, and we talked about A Clockwork Orange,  both the film and the book.  I have to say that in terms of the two I preferred the movie to the book, but it was super 1970s and felt a bit like being drunk. Or high, I imagine. It was a very interesting look into 1970s cinematography.  And the primary colors and filming were ridiculous. I didn’t like the treatment of women in the book or the film, but it’s to be expected both for the time and the subject matter. All in all this dystopian world is not one that I would want to be a part of. And I’m not sure as a result of this book, whether redemption from crime is possible or not. Still, it was an interesting discussion. 

That’s what she wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned. As always, there is more to come.

Pronunciation Problems, CYA comeback, Private Pullbacks, and A Failed Feast

I no longer have a weekend, dear reader. At least not for the moment. I started with three new students this week. Although to be accurate, I started with two new students and Marco. You’ll remember that Marco was the student who I thought I was starting with last week, but due to an email miscommunication with the dates, we had to postpone to this week. I’m not sure that Marco can be considered a new student entirely, as we had one class, but he isn’t exactly old either. I guess he’s somewhere in the middle. We reconnected and had a really nice conversation. I was able to get the details about why he was ill and thankfully his illness is manageable. But it’s interesting because it was initially a misdiagnosis. He was told he had stomach cancer, but instead has sarcoidosis which apparently, though serious, can be quite manageable if treated in the right way. At least that’s what I hear from Jasper’s dad, who also had the illness for a while.  I was very touched that Marco opened up about it. In terms of his learning, we’re going to have to start from the very beginning and what I did for the class was actually quite okay. We did a second intake class and I reacquainted myself with what he finds difficult, and I think I have a plan. He did promise to watch a series and talk to his girlfriend for 15 minutes a day in English. We’ll see if he does it. Apparently, she is quite keen to practice English with him. The second new client that I have is in software sales and advocacy. This means that he tries to both sell his product but also troubleshoot it.  Hence the videos he does.   I approached his lesson from the wrong angle. What I did was. I approached it from an acting angle and what I should’ve done was just approach it from an accent reduction angle without thinking that he was going to try and use different accents.  I also tried to use movie clips and while that was marginally more successful, I’ve learned from Jasper, that Dutch people simply cannot make the TH sound, not the hard-voiced one or the soft voice t It doesn’t exist in Dutch, so it’s really hard for them to make it. I asked a writer friend of mine how come she didn’t sound Dutch when she spoke English and her explanation was that she cared. Jasper‘s ability with a TH is different because he lived in the US, but he remembers being made fun of when he was in grade school about the way that he said, father and mother. My third new client wants help with presentations and describing trends. We meet on Saturdays, with an exceptional Sunday thrown in so that I can do a scavenger hunt on 12 November. 

Slava and I are two classes away from finishing our 20 hours. Kerry talked to his boss and enquired about whether he would continue and the tone of his boss’s email was that we should ensure that in 20 hours he reaches level B1. That’s all well and good except that it takes 160 to 190 hours to go from A2 to B1. So I had to get proactive and cover my own butt, by talking to Kerry to tell her that I was trying my best, but Slava was not able to use the language outside of our classes. She told me that she was going to have Brenda contact Slava and encourage him to use the other methods that we have in our arsenal, including English Central. I felt that that would not sufficiently cover us and I was very clear that Slava does the working class. It’s the fact that his colleagues speak to him in Dutch at work and speak Dutch around him rather than speak English. That is the main issue.I felt that that would not sufficiently cover us and I was very clear that Slava does the work in class. It’s the fact that his colleagues speak to him in Dutch at work and speak Dutch around him rather than speak English that’s the main issue. I did agree, however, that it would be better if Slava were to do some of the English Central work as that might help him with his pronunciation. I also spoke to Kerry yesterday and told her that it would be more effective if his lessons with me would be more effective at once a week rather than twice, and in person rather than online. But for those of you who have been with me for a while, you know that CYA was the way that VIPKID did things. We were always taking screenshots and covering ourselves so that we wouldn’t get penalized. it gave me PTSD flashbacks.

I’m also dealing with a couple of looming losses this week. Unexpectedly, my Greek student had some money issues that she needed to sort out and so she is away temporarily. At least that’s what she indicated. But I find that that is not usually the case. Especially if it’s a money issue. We came to an agreement wherein I am happy to give her What’spp help when she’s doing some writing and that I will not charge for it. But if she needs greater editing, help with a resume, or something like that, then I will charge her, so we decided to go on a case-by-case basis. And we will reconnect when she is here in the Netherlands in November. But it’s still not very easy because it was a good source of income. But more important than income is access to a client. Because according to the business rules in the Netherlands, I have to have at least three clients at a time. and while I still have that without her, I am also going to lose another client, my beloved Sander. A few months ago when we split for the summer he said that he would probably want to continue but yesterday was our last lesson and he needs to also take a lengthy break. He did say that he would come back though. It might be a while. 

Over in my writing world, it looks like Thursday writing is going to be the norm for the next couple of weeks. At least for me. With my weekend taken up by clients, there won’t be much time for writing. Last post I wrote about one o my writers who wanted to invite people to lunch or dinner at his place in Delft. This past Thursday. he asked if I would choose a few people to invite. I told him that most people would not be able to attend with such short notice, but he was insistent so I had him put it in the group. To my surprise, a few people responded that they would go. Thinking that all was well, I let the issue go. I shouldn’t have. One of the people canceled on Sunday morning and the other was a no-show and then acknowledged his no-show Sunday evening. I felt very bad for the host as he sent a picture of the food that he had cooked. We then decided that it would be better to make a potluck event and I also offered to host, but I think that for me, at least, that will have to be next year. Still, I felt that I had dropped the ball spectacularly.

That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned. As always, there is more to come.